A look back at the 2006 release, Sonic Riders. A very polarizing things, we look at what the game excelled at, while noting how some of the flaws may have led the game to be overlooked.
The Worst Game Mechanics Ever
There is nothing worse than getting amped up for a game and realizing it employs a mechanic you dread. Game mechanics range from currency system to turn-based battles. Every game is littered with them. Not all of them are equal. Since the dawn of gaming, developers have been trying to come up with interesting ways of making their games more unique and stand out in the crowd. This can have dire circumstances if things are done right. Hell, sometimes you even have to wonder if the devs played these mechanics themselves before shipping it out! Needless to say, there are a ton more opinions on the mechanics that aren’t listed here, but these are the worst offenders in gaming.
Example: Diablo 2
Diablo 2 used to have a wonderful Barter (Gamble) system. I wouldn’t go a play session without chatting it up with ol’ Gheed. The problem lies in patch 1.09. In that update, Blizzard changed the rarity tables to make getting worthwhile items a near impossibility. Is it possible to have a Set or Unique pop out of Gheed’s gamble bags? Of course. Is it worth it at a percentage less than 1%? Nope! The amount of money Gheed and his fellow Gamblers want for the items are outrageous compared to the chances. Before that patch, I had a Paladin walking about with Azurewrath. You just don’t get things like that anymore. Since then, most games that have these types of systems rarely ever give out anything worth it thanks to insane rarity tables.
Example: Metroid Prime, Super Mario 64
I love me some platforming but when done in 3D space or first-person perspective it just doesn’t work. How many times have you misjudged a jump on one of Bowser’s stages in Super Mario 64? Or had Samus jump on the wrong angle while climbing up separated steps? The problem lies in the camera angles. These games just don’t give us the right angle to correctly judge a distance. You’re staring either at the character’s back or looking forward from your visor. You don’t even see the gap in steps until you’ve already jumped. No amount of button mashing will help you. Capcom did this correctly with Devil May Cry. Every time Dante had to ascend using platforming, the camera angle would either stay on the floor of the area or go into a bird’s eye view. You saw every step and were accurately able to judge distance. Fixed camera angles are the answer to terrible 3D platforming. Not more games with the same problem.
Example: Oblivion, Fallout 3, Dead Island
There are seldom things that feel better in gaming then leveling up. Knowing that just that one level might mean the difference between life and death is just fantastic. The attributes and skills that you get to allocate are some of the best moments in games. No matter how bored or tired you are, when you level up you rush into that menu like a madman to distribute those points. So the question is: why reduce that to nothing? There is no feeling of character advancement when every enemy is the same level as you throughout the gaming world. Take Dead Island for instance. It doesn’t matter where you travel on that island, you can kill anything that comes up to you. Why? They are the same level as you. Oh, you leveled up? So did the monsters. They are still scaled to you. That leaves me with no feeling character progress or any wanting to explore. In other games when you explore and find a hidden dungeon or cave, there is a chance you’ll be torn up because you just aren’t ready for that area. I work my hardest to be able to beat that area because of my prior defeats. That’s the kind of advancement that should be in all games. It gives an extra sense of accomplishment to players and adds more goals to the game.
Example: Assassin’s Creed, Mega Man Battle Network, Pokemon
Did you play Assassin’s Creed 1? How about 2 and Brotherhood? Well tough luck you’re gonna learn to climb walls and dodge pointy things again. Ever throw a Pokeball? No you didn’t! How about virus busting with MegaMan.EXE? Well here’s a refresher course. This needs to stop. In long running series it isn’t a crime to allow your loyal fans to skip tutorials with a harmless pop-up message asking “have you played Assassin’s Creed before?” and let us continue. I don’t need to have every Professor from Kanto to Unova teach me the fundamentals of catching Pokemon when I’ve been playing since the early 90’s. Mega Man Battle Network has the main character get a refresher course on how to destroy enemies, uses Chip combos, and time shots right in every game. Three tutorials that span 5-10 minutes (depending on if you skip the chatter and get straight to the tutorial battles) in all six games. I know you put a lot of work into that tutorial stage or section but for veteran players, it only serves to annoy us.
Example: WWE: Day of Reckoning 2, Mortal Kombat 9, Marvel vs. Capcom 3
So you’ve taken your time and learned something inside and out. Let’s say Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat for this example. You got your combos ready and you can time dodges perfectly. You are ready to go! Battle starts and you are whipping your friend mercilessly. You get him to half health in under 10 seconds and you’re feeling good. All of a sudden: X-RAY ATTACK. The match is back to even strength in a flash. These types of Momentum Shifts will erase your work in seconds just to try and bring in more “drama” and “excitement” to the battlefield. What they really do is annoy the hell out of you. If someone can stop your flurry of attacks that drain half your health, then they need to practice. Relying on momentum shifts makes for bad players.
Proof of that? Let’s take my group of friends that consistently play the latest Mortal Kombat. Out of eight of us only two know actual combos with their characters. The rest rely on special moves, dodging, and X-Rays. It doesn’t feel so great to have all that work be gone thanks to one button press. The worst offender out of them all is in WWE: Day of Reckoning 2 for the Gamecube. You could have a momentum shift completely swap your stamina and body pain gauges with your opponent who was just at full health. Ouch.
Example: Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XII, Diablo 2
You level up and get a skill point. Now what? Well you allocate it, of course! Problem though… You’re lost. You see a sea of icons and all of them are grey. Oh wait, there’s a red one. Why is it red? Wait this section isn’t for my main character. Oh no, I can’t use that it doesn’t have the right synergies. Oh forget it! Look, if you’re going to have a skill system in your game you got to stop making it so inaccessible. The Sphere Grid? License Grid? They don’t work. They are completely confusing and only serve to make character progress a complete pain in the rear. Since Final Fantasy X, Square has been trying to fix that system and they really need to just stop trying. Something that complex will never work. You’ll wind up missing something or get lost in the non-categorized sea of confusion.
Diablo 2 had a similar problem where most players who weren’t “hardcore” or patrolled forums knew where to put their points. You’d have points everywhere because you’d think this spell was cool or whatnot but when you got to Hell difficulty you would get decimated. Why? You didn’t put your points in the right skills to increase synergies. Synergies strengthened main skills like Lightning, Multi-Shot, or Werewolf form. Instead you were switching between 6 different skills and dying all the time. You can see why Blizzard is going with a simplified system for Diablo 3. You have to see what percentage of the fanbase was perfect spec players or those who barely beat Andariel in Nightmare.
Example: Most RTS games, Metal Gear Solid 2, the GTA series
Nothing slows down a game then escorting someone around. You can never go at your own pace and the person of interest is the most fragile, thin piece of glass with two legs you’ve ever seen. Grand Theft Auto games are great because you have an entire city in the palm of your hand that you can do things whenever you want. Yet when you have to do one of the twenty-something escort missions in the game you’re forced to slow down or not drawn attention or even not let the piece of glass die. These missions are normally long, slow, and annoying. I have never done an escort mission where afterwards I said to myself, “alright sweet I’m pumped for the next one!” That means something, right?
I think the absolute worst escort mission is when you have to take Emma Emmerich from her lab to another section of Big Shell. The travel there is the most annoying thing in the game. You have to swim, climb, walk extremely slow, and talk the whole time. Emma’s leg is hurt, her lungs are small, and worst yet: she gets stabbed along the way! Die, escort missions, die!
Example: Too many MMO’s to name, Final Fantasy VIII, Disgaea series
The absolute worst feeling in any game is knowing that you can’t go any further without doing the only available content over and over again. You have to reach a certain level or have the right gear or collect the right materials before you can do anything else and that is a bummer. Games aren’t meant to be boring. They are a form of entertainment. Having to do repetitious events to proceed is the epitome of boring. In DC Universe Online when you hit level 30, you are expected to do daily missions and dungeons to collect enough “marks” to obtain good enough gear to do more things over and over again. It’s a vicious grind. However, DCUO isn’t the only offender by far. Most MMO’s have grinding and farming as a feature. I also remember farming the Adamantoise for hours and hours to get the Lionheart weapon. I won’t even start to get into Disgaea’s grind as it is possible the worst offender. Every item have its own levels to grind through. Every. Item.